The 1940's: born during WWII

Foods in the 1940’s

Food in my family came from gardens and grocers.  Green grocers were those folks that sold produce and some other stuff.   The actual self-serve grocery store was Piggly-Wiggly in 1916.  I have no memory of course.  I am not that old!  My memory bank skips a few years here because I have no memory of going grocery shopping etc at all until I was in my tween years; the early 1950’s.  the grownups took care of getting the food into the house.  It is the cooking and cleaning part of kitchen life that creates the most memories for me.

By the time we were living in the 3-bedroom rambler house, a big grocery store was just across the street, across a field and down the street.  We never had a garden of our own by this time.  We were becoming a modern family after all.  Grandma Myrdahl still grew hers til her last days.  Plus her chickens and eggs even after she had moved from the 3-story house in Tacoma and my Grandpa had died.

I remember it was a BIG deal when milk became homogenized.  It had always been pasteurized I think…..excerpt for the goat Grandma milked in her backyard.  I so did not ever eat her goat-blood pudding!  Homogenized was the sad day when that wonderful two inches of pure cream disappeared from the top of the glass bottle of milk.  We had always scraped off the cream, saved it and used it on our oatmeal or cream of wheat.  The ‘heavy cream’ you buy today is no where near the heavenly taste of real milk cream.  Not even close.

The milkman picked up the empties
The milk man picked up the empty bottles and delivered the new full ones.

And we signed up for milk delivery…….a milk mad came every other day, taking away our old empty glass milk bottles and leaving a metal crate of 4 new milk bottles.  In the mid 50’s the milk delivery companies when on a marketing campaign and they then sold eggs, cottage cheese and other dairy products.  I still remember the tall metal glasses in loud colors that held cottage cheese.  And you got to keep the glass!  My aunts would brag to each other on who had the most colors.

The milk man always came early in the morning and the clink clanking of the metal crates and glass bottles was so soothing.  All was right with the world if Dad got his milk delivered.

Brings a tear to my eye to see this milk truck again
The 1940's: born during WWII

World War II Victory Gardens

Victory Garden Poster

Because I was born during the war obviously I did not have a Victory Garden of my own.  But  I grew up in my Grandma Myrdahl’s garden behind her three-story old house in Tacoma, Washington. I must have helped in my own two-year old way by getting in the way or pulling up new potatoes that were not ready to be harvested.  Loved digging in the dirt.  My Mom didn’t like it because girls were always dressed in dresses.  No shorts, jeans or pants for us in those days.  She must have changed my outfit at least three times a day.

Victory Gardens were started as a patriotic way folks at home could support the troops in Europe and Asia.  We grew our own vegetables, fruit and eggs  so the farm produce could go direction to the Military.

This is a great poster promoting growing your own foods.

My Grandma was from Norway and lived on farms all her life so for her gardens were a natural way of life and she would have one in her yard no matter if we were at war or not.  All women knew how to can the fruits and vegetables for winter food, so nothing went to waste.

I remember the summer smells of the moist dirt and wilting green leafs on the carrot tops.  There were no sounds during the afternoon as Grandma tended her garden, hens and roosters.  She and I didn’t have to talk that I remember.   We were just together.  I have the same quiet, close relationship with my oldest granddaughter, Audrey.  it is a delicious memory.

Sitting on the back porch we would snap beans and shell pea pods.  I ate more raw peas than I got into the pan.  The sound of the crisp warm peas hitting the tall metal pan was soothing.  Grandma could snap green beans in half faster than they probably do in a bean factory today. Snap, clunk, snap—–on and on until that day’s pickings for supper were ready to take into the house.

Some chickens would be awake too, scrabbling with each other for bits of bugs plucked out of the dry dirt.  I don’t remember the roosters doing anything.  Maybe it was all up to the girl-chickens.  Nothing ever changes in kitchen dynamics I guess.

There were no freezers to store large volumes of produce,  so most of the veggies and fruits were timed to leave in the ground at the end of summer when they could  be canned.  My Grandmother seemed to know exactly how much of her produce she could use weekly, still leaving enough left for the big week or two of canning in late summer.

Grandma had an internal counting clock on which produce had been planted when; then she could time when to take the ‘first planted’ stuff to be used daily, leaving the most recent plantings to be harvested for canning at the end of the summer.

Fridges had an ice box on top sometimes but not to freeze anything.  It was a huge block of ice delivered by the ice man and it kept the food inside the fridge cool for an entire day! The ice man came to our house every other day—  until I was 10 or 11 years old.  He was very strong and wore a huge leather protector that drapped across his shoulders and down his back so he could protect himself from the freezing block of ice while he carried it into our house and put it in the ice box.  He used a huge hook thing that squeezed together like salad tongs to pick up the ice block and sling it over his shoulder to carry into the house.  During the summer there was always ice water dripping down his back as he struggled to get this chunk of ice into our ice box.

How did I end up  talking about the ice man when Grandma and I were snapping beans?  Anyway, it seems amazing to me now that  we could just go pick the vegetables in the garden to cook for dinner that night.

The smell of warm, dirt- covered potatoes and slug covered cauliflower were fresh for every meal.  I think that is why I don’t really eat very many veggies anymore.  I was raised on the taste of real vegetables and fruit right from the ground……..and no vegetable nor fruit today tastes anything like that long ago REAL taste.  especially tomatoes.  I used to love tomatoes.  But even from a supposed health food store they taste bland and well, tasteless!  You haven’t lived til you bite into a sun warmed tomato just like it was an apple.  Beyond description.

There were no PC garden rules back then, nor were there any pesticides available for the average Victory Garden grower.  My Grandma knew exactly what got rid of what pest in her garden.  Naturally.  Salt for slugs.  Borax for some other kind of veggie.  (I don’t think they even make Borax any more)